Skete of St. John the Baptist is located in the center of the village of Ankhua (Gudauta district, Abkhazia), 7 km. from New Athos. During the medieval Abkhazian kingdom the village of Ankhua was part of the ancient capital of Abazgia – Anakopia.
There is a country road along the canyon of Mysra river, built in the beginning of XX century by monks of the New Athos monastery. In order to overcome the river those monks built four arched bridges of hand-made limestone blocks on various parts of the road. On two of them stone slabs are inserted with the date of construction of these bridges – 1908.
In the manuscript plan of the land holdings of the New Athos Monastery (dated back to the late of 19th century), at the location of the present skete of St. John the Baptist the following objects were designated: “New Farm”, a farmyard with four buildings, a large barn, a residential house, vineyards and an apiary. The monks of the New Athos monastery began the construction of a new monastery building with a temple, a refectory and cells in the late of IX century. Construction was completed in 1905.
The skete is a massive two-story building, built in the shape of the letter T with a temple in honor of St. John the Baptist. The building is entirely lined with white limestone. The cornices and the dome of the temple, as well as the internal partitions are lined with bricks. The roof was iron and partially preserved. Limestone and clay for the manufacture of bricks were mined in the village of Ankhua.
A large two-story building, stretched from north to south, was a residential building for the monks. It is supposed in this building there were 36 cells, where about 50-70 people lived.
A two-story building with narrow window openings adjoins the fraternal building on the west side, where 3 toilets and washstands were located on each floor. On the ground floor of the fraternal building there were two large rooms. In one of them there was a special furnace, which heated the skete. The second room served as a warehouse for firewood. The whole air-heating system of the monastery was destroyed during the Soviet era.
The temple, with a dome towering over the entire structure, is located on the second floor of the building, adjacent to the main building of the monastery on the south side. The dome, lined with bricks, was covered with lead roofing sheets and has eight forged iron windows. From the outside of the altar there are two large window openings and a large stone decorative cross between them. On the west side there are three window openings and a stone decorative cross on the top of them. On the south side there are five large window openings, decorated with ornaments in the form of a cross and cherubs.
Under the temple on the first floor there was a refectory. A one-story outbuilding adjoined to the western side of this refectory, it served as a monastic kitchen.
For water supply, the monks built a reservoir on the hill opposite to the monastery, from that reservoir water was piped into the monastery building.
On the western slope of the hill where the skete is situated on, an apple orchard was planted. In the vicinity of the monastery there were vine plantations, gardens, orchards, an apiary, a barnyard and a pool for fish-farming. The skete supplied the New Athos monastery with provisions.
The skete of St. John the Baptist was closed after the closure of the New Athos monastery in 1924. In the Soviet period, an eight-year secondary school with two sectors – Abkhazian and Armenian, a rural club (in the temple building), a gym (in the former refectory), a grocery store were located in the monastery building and village administration (in the northern side).
In 1991, a mining organization from Donetsk (Ukrainian SSR) received permission from the Gudauta district of the Abkhaz ASSR to restructure the skete of St. John the Baptist as a recreation center for miners. During the reconstruction, the original roof of the building on the southern side was dismantled.
The Patriotic War of Abkhazia in 1992-1993 made the Donetsk builders to suspend the works. As a recreation center in the monastery, the skete was damaged a lot.
On 26 November 2015, the staff of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia and its parishioners partially cleared the territory adjacent to the building of the monastery. In August 2017 and 2018, the staff of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia cleared the territory and building of the monastery from thickets and debris, prepared the building for conservation and subsequent restoration.
In August 2017, the Council of the Holy Metropolis of Abkhazia decided to restore the monastery and create a rehabilitation center for drug addicts. At the same time, a charity fundraising was started for restoration of the monastery.
You can help in the restoration of the monastery of St. John the Baptist and the creation of a rehabilitation center for drug addicts, making your donation:
Skete’s coordinates: 43°07’18.0″ North latitude 40°49’29.6″ East longitude